Biophysics

Our program focuses on membrane proteins, image processing, and the development of new technologies that can be applied to human health and disease.

Our program is designed for students seeking a career in academia or industry.

Programs of study are conducted in experimental, theoretical, and translational biophysics. Areas of experimental interest include structural biology, properties of membrane ionic channels, receptors, and transporters, and synaptic processes in neurons.  

Theoretical topics include stochastic methods, modeling of biological systems, and nervous system theory.

The program in biophysics is interdisciplinary and draws on the diverse resources of Buffalo's scientific community.

A close collaboration exists with the Department of Biophysics at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center since the areas of fundamental research are complementary. There are also collaborations with the Department of Radiology, providing a clinically relevant experience for students who wish to pursue a career in medical radiation physics. Associations also exist with the Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine, and with crystallographic research at the Hauptman-Woodward Institute.

Students admitted to the program commonly have a strong background in the physical, chemical, or mathematical sciences, though students in the biological sciences with an analytical orientation are also accepted. Candidates enjoy a high degree of independence in development of research programs, choice of major advisors, and pursuit of dissertation research.

Program Objectives

The graduate program in Biophysical Sciences strives to draw together biophysical interests from throughout the academic community. Accordingly, collaborative relationships are maintained with a number of laboratories outside the Department. Notable among these associations are the Biophysics department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Hauptman-Woodward Research Institute.

On campus, long-standing links exist with the Departments of Radiology, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Nuclear Medicine, and Oral Biology, and a number of faculty in these units hold joint appointments in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Consequently, a broad spectrum of biophysical expertise and research opportunities are available to the students of Biophysical Sciences.

Structure of the Program

Membrane biophysics has historically been a major focus of the program and remains a strong interest.

Current research programs are concerned with the physico-chemical characterization of biological membranes, permeation and fusion mechanisms, membrane transporter proteins and their regulation, neurotransmitters and receptors in the visual system, the structure of ionic channels and gating kinetics, and the relationship between molecular dynamics of channels and the detailed molecular structure. Model systems include the heart, kidney, gastrointestinal and nervous systems.

Theoretical studies and modeling are being pursued in relation to these experimental studies, such as the analysis of single-channel conductance time series in terms of multi-state kinetic models. In addition, theoretical exploration of generalized ionic transport processes, non-linear dynamic models, and non-equilibrium thermodynamics are ongoing activities.

Training and research areas offered by the UB Department of Physiology and Biophysics are supplemented by the Biophysics graduate program at Roswell Park. This program is strong in molecular biophysics, X-ray crystallography, and radio-biology. The resources offered by both programs are available to the students in either, and a number of courses are presented conjointly.

Individual student programs are tailored to student needs and interests, and to ensure broad experience in the major areas of the biophysical sciences. A graduate student of Biophysical Sciences enjoys considerable freedom in the development of dissertation research, and in the choice of his/her major professor.

Program Requirements

A total of at least 72 credit hours are required for the Ph.D. degree. Of this total, at least 20 credit hours must be earned in formal didactic coursework, excluding Lab Rotations, Research and Thesis Guidance. Where appropriate, didactic course credits not exceeding 8 hours in total may be transferred from other graduate programs.

Required Courses

For students entering the Biophysical Sciences program from the interdisciplinary PHD Program in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS), the following courses are required:

Year 1 Fall

Year 1 Spring

Year 2 Fall

For students accepted directly into the Program, the following courses are required:

Qualified students may petition the Graduate Affairs Committee for waiver of the requirement for any specific course upon the basis of the completion of an equivalent course with a grade of B or higher.

** BPH electives include courses from the following list:

Seminar

Doctoral students are required to register for credit in Seminar for at least 2 semesters. In addition, attendance at the departmental seminar series is expected of all students throughout the duration of their graduate programs. During this period, each student is expected to present at least one seminar.

Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree requires the completion of all programmatic course requirements, and satisfaction of the preliminary examination requirements, as detailed in the following section.  Once the student has been approved for candidacy, full-time registration status requires only one credit per semester.

Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Exam should demonstrate the student’s ability to formulate and defend a research proposal in the NIH R01 format. The topic can be any area of biophysics that is within the purview of the program, but commonly is a topic that will be pursued for the dissertation.  Upon completion, the proposal is submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies. If found to be appropriate with respect to topic, format, and technical production, the proposal will then be submitted to a faculty review committee, consisting of at least three faculty, for scientific evaluation. Should the review committee find the written proposal unacceptable, it will be returned to the student with comments for revision. No more than two revisions will be accepted.

Following approval of the written document, an oral defense of the proposal before the same review committee will be scheduled. Questions posed by the reviewers, while directed primarily toward the proposal, can also explore the student’s mastery of basic concepts related to the topic of the proposal.

Dissertation Research, Preparation, and Review

The dissertation research is conducted by the graduate student under the tutelage of the Major Professor and a three-faculty-member Dissertation Committee, who critically monitor and supervise preparation of the dissertation. During the course of the dissertation project the student will hold semi-annual meetings with the Dissertation Committee. These meetings will serve to provide a progress report to the committee. The oral defense of dissertation is scheduled after the candidate's Dissertation Committee has approved the dissertation. The research represented by the dissertation is presented in a seminar prior to the formal oral defense.

Grading and Promotion Standards

The Department requires a grade of at least 'B' in all required course work and an overall cumulative 3.0 grade average. Failure to meet these standards may result in academic probation and dismissal. An occasional grade of 'C' in a non-required course is acceptable provided that it represents passing performance in the view of the Department.

PhD: University/Institutional Graduate School Requirements:

  • A minimum of three years (72 credit hours) of graduate study
  • A minimum residence of one year (24 credit hours)
  • Continuous registration for a minimum of one credit each Fall and Spring term until all requirements for the degree are completed.
  • A Ph.D. dissertation which is an original contribution, written in English.
  • A Major Professor and a minimum of two members of the Department’s Graduate Faculty and a third member who may be from outside of the Department shall form the Thesis Advisory Committee. All should hold the rank of Assistant Professor or above and be members of UB’s Graduate Faculty.

Admission Requirement & Procedure

The candidate for graduate studies in UB Biophysical Sciences should have demonstrated above-average academic performance in the sciences, which may include mathematics, biochemistry and physical chemistry, physics and biology. Entry into the program is contingent upon award of the baccalaureate degree.

Applicants generally enter the doctoral program through the PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS) (http://medicine.buffalo.edu/phdprogram), to which all of the graduate programs in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences contribute. After the one-year core interdisciplinary program, students request entry into the graduate program of their preference.

Applicants may also be admitted into the Program in Biophysical Sciences directly, without first entering the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. Generally, direct admission is contingent upon a specific correlation between the research interests and training of the applicant, and ongoing research programs represented within the Program in Biophysical Sciences. Direct admission begins with a correspondence between the student and a particular faculty member. Direct admission requires the approval of the Student Affairs Committee of the Department.

Acceptance into the interdisciplinary PPBS, and subsequent or direct admission into the Program in Biophysical Science, normally are accompanied by support in the form of a Graduate or Research Assistantship, as well as a Tuition Scholarship covering most or all of the tuition costs involved.

Application requires submission of the following documents:

  • Official transcripts from each institution previously attended;
  • GRE scores;
  • Three letters of recommendation;
  • A personal statement of career objectives and future plans;
  • In case of international applicants, a TOEFL test is required.

For Direct Admission through the Department:

GRE score reporting codes:

  • Institution Code: R2925
  • Department Code: 0222

TOEFL must be in the last 2 years

  • Institution Code: R2925 (SUNY-University at Buffalo)
  • Department Code: 36

Your official credentials should be submitted directly to the department to the attention of:

Graduate Student Coordinator

Kara Rickicki

Graduate Programs Coordinator

Physiology and Biophysics

955 Main Street, Room 3102C, Buffalo, NY 14203

Phone: (716) 829-2417

Email: rickicki@buffalo.edu

Fees

The application fee is $85.

Your application fee must be paid online. This can be done via your GrAdMIT application account.

Contact

Director of Graduate Studies, Biophysics

Slaughter, Malcolm

560 Biomedical Research Building Buffalo, NY 14214

Phone: (716) 829-3240

Email: mslaught@buffalo.edu

Graduate Student Coordinator

Kara Rickicki

Graduate Programs Coordinator

Physiology and Biophysics

955 Main Street, Room 3102C, Buffalo, NY 14203

Phone: (716) 829-2417

Email: rickicki@buffalo.edu